Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

It’s been another busy week in the world of tech and gadgets. This week saw many patent wars continuing with Apple, Microsoft, and Google as well as continued legal battles with Aereo, China, data privacy groups and the police, Kim Dotcom of Megaupload fame. Beyond that, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all had some fairly major announcements this past week regarding gadgets and gizmos to look forward to for the holiday season. There was also plenty of coverage about yesterday’s partial solar eclipse.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter, we’ll recap the highlights for you below!

That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

Throwback Thursday: My Girl

Throwback Thursday: My Girl

One of the most memorable movies of the early 1990s is My Girl. Anyone who’s seen it remembers it. This is one of those rare movies that very few people can watch without bursting into tears near the end. It’s a coming of age story about a girl and her best friend dealing with the way that life can change very quickly. Set in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1970s, the movie covers topics from dealing with the loss of a parent, a second marriage, being teased, entering adolescence, having that first real crush, as well as losing your best friend to tragedy.

My Girl was one of the first movies that I went to see on my own with just a few friends. It was also one of the first films I can remember people going back to see multiple times. If you were too young to have seen it, it’s available on Netflix, iTunes, and on Amazon Instant Video. It’s well worth watching — whether for the first or the hundredth time. My Girl is one of those rare films that stands the test of time and tells a story that is relevant to anyone from any generation.

What is a movie that has stuck with you through many years? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday Recipes: Nuts for Nuts!

Wednesday Recipes: Nuts for Nuts!

Today is Nut Day and Anaphylaxis Awareness Day. For those of you who don’t have nut allergies, we have a couple of great nut recipes for you to try out. Nuts have been part and parcel of the human diet since before the dawn of civilization. Almost everyone has a favorite whether it is peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, chestnuts, hazelnuts, hickory, pistachios, cashews, or pecans. Nuts can be made into a spread, like peanut butter, or into a snack like trail mix. So, today, if you can, feel free to go nuts about nuts!

Individual Cherry-Blueberry Trifles

1 1/4 cups halved pitted fresh cherries or thawed and drained frozen cherries
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries or thawed and drained frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
16 ladyfingers
1 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Toss cherries, blueberries and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Layer two ladyfingers, about 1/4 cup fruit mixture, and 2 tablespoons yogurt in four 10- to 12-ounce tumblers or similar-size glasses. Repeat with another layer of ladyfingers, fruit, and yogurt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon almonds just before serving.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Top with almonds just before serving.

Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put green beans in the basket and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Toss the green beans in a large bowl with oil, orange zest, salt, pepper and almonds.

To toast sliced almonds, place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

6 Great Halloween Haunted House Ideas

6 Great Halloween Haunted House Ideas

Halloween is just a little over a week away which means it’s almost too late time to get the spooky decorations out and get ready for all the trick-or-treaters who will be coming around. If you’re planning to go a little further and make up a mini-haunted house, we have a few tips on things you can use to give the place a vibe that is both eerie and entertaining!

However, if you are making a new structure and it’s intended to be a temporary structure, you will still need to make certain that it is fairly sturdy. For the floor, use strong wood instead of relying on cheaper ply-wood — you can always re-purpose it later on. You can try weighting the structure down by making a gap between the bottom and the flooring and using sandbags as anchors in lieu of digging or making a more traditional foundation. The walls can be plywood with supporting studs placed to keep them from being pushed out of position. And, while a flat roof is fine, a steepled roof with rafters showing can give you much more room to run wires and to give the impression of spookiness.

If you’re not certain how to build such a structure, talk to someone who is. The chills should come from deliberate effects, not people being scared because your haunted house wiggles due to poor design and support.

1) LED strands are your friend – Unless you live in a place that has a lot of insects at Halloween, LED lights and strings can be the best way to light a haunted house and to guide people through it and call their attention to the particular sections you want them to see. You can also use a small LED light hung from a reel that is set to crank up and down on a timer to make it look as if a radioactive spider is coming down from the ceiling.

2) Small speakers are better than large – The worst haunted houses are those where the decibel level on every effect leaves the visitors temporarily deaf. Use smaller speakers placed strategically to transmit the sounds you want people to hear as they pass through your haunted house. Smaller speakers are also easier to rig and don’t require as much support in a structure as larger ones do.

3) Flatscreen TVs for windows – If you can bear it (and if the walls will support one), part with your flatscreen TVs for a bit and use them in the haunted house. You can mask them fairly well and make it seem like they are windows looking out onto an eerie landscape.

4) Use blacklights and strobes sparingly – Blacklights are great when used carefully and with paint that is designed to reflect them. Strobes can also be a great way to spice things up. However, don’t overuse either of these. Blacklights can cause eyestrain and dizziness since they cause the human eye to focus in ways that don’t occur much in nature and strobes can induce headaches in many people and seizures in a few. If you do use strobes, make certain that anyone going into the haunted house knows in advance.

5) Have a little something for those who make it through – Growing up, one of my neighbors would do a small haunted house in their front yard. At the end of it, the doorway out opened into their garage and they always had rigged-up bags filled with “brains” (cold spaghetti), “eyeballs” (peeled grapes), and “guts” (sausage skins filled with Jello or liquids). The kids could put their hands in these bags without being able to see in them and indulge that “ick” factor. Afterwards, there was the expected candy, candied apples, and sometimes more games like “Haunted Fishing Pond” or “Shoot a dart at the moving jack-o-lantern.”

Needless to say, these were the most popular people in the neighborhood at Halloween.

6) Be ready to take younger kids through and show them how everything works for real – If a child gets upset or scared inside the haunted house, have someone who can go in and get them and then walk them through the house with a flashlight and show them exactly how everything works. Getting to see behind the curtain does a lot to calm a kid down. Also, it’s educational and the kid will remember it for years to come.

How else do you think I know about this stuff?

Halloween is a great holiday for kids to get their spook on and for adults to have a little fun. With modern gadgets and careful planning, this Halloween can be one that is remembered for years to come without being one that is still being paid off for years to come!

Motion Picture Monday: A Ratings Guide

Motion Picture Monday: A Ratings Guide

Anyone who has been to the movies has, no doubt, gotten some familiarity with the MPAA ratings system. That system is very easy to understand and leaves few questions as to what age a movie is aimed towards. Though, in recent years, some of the ratings have gotten to be a bit more porous or tolerant in the kinds of language and suggestive content they’ll allow while keeping a lower-aged rating, for the most part, you can trust that if a movie is rated “G,” you can take your children to it.

However, when it comes to TV show ratings and video game ratings, that system quickly goes out the window and things can get very confusing very quickly. So, today, we’d like to do a quick rundown of the two major TV/gaming rating systems in use in the US in order to help parents decide which popular TV shows are appropriate for their children and which games they might add to their shopping list for this coming holiday season. The TV ratings guide is a voluntary adoption on the part of some stations, channels, and shows and is not regulated by force of law. The ESRB ratings system is also a voluntary system that has no real legal enforcement. Both can be a bit…creative in their interpretations which is what we’re hoping to help clear up.

TV Y, ESRB eC – These are television shows or games that are aimed at young children. Examples include cartoons like The Smurfs, Dora the Explorer, and games that are generally educational in content or are based on children’s television shows and films. There will be no foul language, suggestive themes, or depictions of violence beyond the slapstick kind.

TV Y7, ESRB 10+ – These are television shows or games that may depict fantasy violence or themes that are appropriate for older children or video games that contain the same. For games, the ability to read quickly may be required. Examples include cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and games such as The Legend of Zelda.

TV G, ESRB E – These are games and television shows that are aimed at a general audience. They may contain some items that are not appropriate or comprehensible to younger children and may require (for games) the ability to read and deal with menuing systems as part of gameplay. Examples include Star Trek and Doctor Who in TV and games like Sid Meyer’s Civilization series and some earlier Final Fantasy games.

TV PG, TV 14, ESRB T – These are television shows or games that are inappropriate for younger children for various reasons. The PG rating indicates that parents may want to preview the show before letting children younger than 14 watch it and may need to watch it with them to help them understand some of the things depicted therein. Most of the prime-time television shows fall into this category. Examples include shows like CSI, Person of Interest, Criminal Minds, The Big Bang Theory, and Gracepoint and games such as World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and most of the Final Fantasy franchise.

TV MA, ESRB M – These shows and games contain content that is aimed at adults. They may have foul language, dark themes, sexual themes, realistic depictions of violence, and pose serious moral dilemmas as part of their storylines. Examples include The Walking Dead, Law and Order: SVU, Desperate Housewives, and other late-night programming (post 8 pm timeslot). Games that fall under this rating are Dragon Age and GTA.

ESRB AO – This is a game that is aimed at adults only and should not be given to children. The content is completely adult in nature and may contain explicit sex, explicit violence, extreme language, and other situations that are not appropriate for children.

Ratings, even when voluntary, can help you decide if a show or game is appropriate for your children. However, do bear in mind that ratings are not hard-and-fast things. Often, the ESRB rated games will include a list of why a game has a certain rating for anything T or higher. TV shows may frequently contain a disclaimer before the beginning of the show explaining the nature of the content within. And, some older teens may find games rated T or higher or shows rated 14 and higher not to their liking while some 12 year olds may be perfectly fine playing T games or watching a show like The Walking Dead. In the end, it is up to parents to decide what content they deem appropriate for their children and at what age their child may view or play content with a certain rating. The rating systems are only a guideline — they cannot tell you, in and of themselves, whether the show or game is something your children will like or something you will find appropriate for them.

Wednesday Recipes: Lamprey Edition

Today is Hagfish Day — a fish that only a fisherman can love. These slimy, eel-like fish are not generally eaten. Their skin is used to make various leather products such as wallets, belts, and other accessories that need to be durable. However, though the repugnant and veniform hagfish is not central to cuisine, their cousins, the lampreys, are edible and the centerpieces of many Old World recipes — including one dish that is served for the British Monarch on special occasions. So, since we can’t share any hagfish recipes with you today, we’ll do the next best thing and share some lamprey recipes for those of you looking for something that is definitely different to add to your recipe repertoire!

Lamprey Pie

Pastry dough for nine-inch pie crust
1 pound eel, catfish, or other fish filets
1/2 C brown bread crumbs (1/3 C if blood is used)
1/4 C wine vinegar (2T if blood is used)
1/4 C fresh eel or fish blood (optional)
1/4 C dry wine
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and black pepper
Salt to taste

Syrup and Sops:
1 C sweet wine
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
3 slices firm white bread
1 T brown sugar, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a pie pan with the crust, and put it in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes to harden it. Remove it, and reduce oven temperature to 350°.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, vinegar, dry wine, cinnamon, salt and pepper (and blood if it is used). Place the eels or fish in the pie crust, and pour the sauce over them. Cover the pie with heavy aluminum foil, with a few holes poked in it. Put the pie in the oven, and bake it for half an hour to forty-five minutes, or until the eels or fish are done. Remove it, and allow it to cool. Remove the foil from the pie, and carefully remove the eels or fish from the pie, and arrange them on a serving dish.

In a saucepan, over low heat, combine half of the sweet wine with the ginger and brown sugar. Carefully pour the sauce remaining in the bottom of the pie crust into the saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and simmer, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Line the bottom of the pie crust with the slices of white bread, and pour over them the remaining sweet wine. Then pour the hot syrup over the bread and wine, and serve the sops in the crust, and the eels or fish separately.

Recipe from Gode Cookery.

Beer-Battered Fried Lamprey

2 lbs lampreys, cleaned

Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (more to taste)
12 ounces beer (warm or cold, flat or fizzy ~ don’t waste good beer here)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Oil, for frying (any vegetable oil will do ~ you’ll want about 1/2-inch in your pan)

To clean lampreys: after catching and killing the fish, pop it into boiling water for a few seconds to help remove the slimy coating. Though a knife will often be all that’s needed to scrape it away, any remaining vestiges can be rubbed off the skin with a rough cloth. Cut off the tail (usually about 6 inches long), then tie a string around the head and suspend the fish over the sink to drain the blood. Open bronchial holes on the side of the fish and allow the blood to empty Then, remove the intestines and notocordium (the long, dark bitter-tasting organ running down the abdomen). Rinse the fish again and then decapitate it by slicing around the body and pulling off the head. If you don’t want crunchy lamprey, make sure the thick, bony cartilage comes out with the head. Discard both.

To make the batter: Mix the dry ingredients together. Add beer slowly, stirring constantly, until you get the texture of pancake batter. Let sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to allow the gluten to break down.

Cut cleaned fish into 1″ sections and drop into the batter. Heat the oil in a large frying pan to 350°F. Drop the battered fish in the hot oil and cook until golden brown on all sides, about three minutes.

Tech Talk Tuesday: Fashion and Gadgetry

When most people think of high tech and gadgets, they don’t think of fashion. After all, the tech industry is dominated by people who prefer comfort to style — just look at Zuckerburg and his trademark hoodies. However, there is no reason to believe that tech can’t be stylish or that stylish things have no part in the world of technology. So, today, we’re going to talk about some practical ways that you can use your sense of style or your love of gadgets to mix fashion and tech!

1) Organizing – It’s something of a trope that a woman’s purse is a chaotic mess of papers, receipts, checkbooks, pens, and heaven only knows what else. If you are forever fishing through your purse trying to find your phone, wallet, or whatever, check to see if your purse comes with pockets on the inside. If it does, you can generally put your phone there to make it easy to find when you need it.

2) QR codes – Everyone has seen those strange boxy images on things and wondered what they were. QR codes can be printed on tags and on items and can give you a variety of information. If you have a QR reader app on your smartphone, you can sometimes use it to help you make certain that the shirt you’re about to buy isn’t a knock-off or on sale somewhere else in your area.

3) Blinkenlights – Originally, these were just the diagnostic lights that come up on a computer during the boot process. However, with LEDs (the actual diodes, not the screens) becoming cheaper, it’s possible to accessorize your accessories with them and, in a pinch, with a bit of programming using Raspberry Pi, you can even program them to turn your purse into a work of art!

4) Photo Outreach – If you’ve been cruising the shops and are trying to figure out which outfit to add to your wardrobe, you might want to whip out your phone, take a quick selfie, and send it out to your friends for their opinions. With smartphones and social media, tech makes it easy to be fashionable or to even become a trendsetter in your own crowd!

What are some other ways you can think of to mix fashion and tech? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Motion Picture Monday: The Walking Dead Season 5 Starts

Motion Picture Monday: The Walking Dead Season 5 Starts

Spoiler Alert — there will be spoilers in this post recapping Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead.

Last night the fifth season of AMC’s hit television show, The Walking Dead, began. And, it was spectacular. Many of us (who have not read the comics and who realize that the TV series is not the most faithful adaptation) had wondered what role Carol and Tyreese would play once the group was in Terminus. Carol being the one responsible for inciting the chaos that led to Terminus’s downfall more than made up for her horrifying actions in season four. She has gone from being one of the characters I tolerated to being one of my favorites with her raw display of sheer awesomenessity (which is a word now) last night.

I’d had a feeling that the guys running Terminus were going to be up to no good and I’d pretty much suspected what they were going to do to the prisoners — though the idea of anyone eating long pork is revolting and makes me really glad we never saw anyone from the group partake of a meal back in season four — but it was sad to see just how warped the Terminus residents had become from their early days as being a hopeful haven for other survivors.

Seeing Morgan at the end was also great and I’m glad that, by the time he showed up, the others had escaped and Rick had corrected the sign to warn other haven seekers to go elsewhere. I am wondering if they’re going to find Beth this season or if she’ll only be in flashbacks. Losing her was a pivotal moment for Daryl and I have a feeling that the search for her is going to wind up being a pretty large development arc for him as a character. I just hope it doesn’t wind up being a repeat of the search for Sophia.

Yes, The Walking Dead is not for everyone. However, the storytelling up to this point has been absolutely superb. The scripts and blocking guides make for great reading (if you can get your hands on them and if you’re as big a literary nerd as I am). This series has been an extremely tightly-run operation since season one with music, sound, casting, set, props, lighting, and cameras working to help the actors bring the creators’ and writers’ scripts to life. Or unlife. Whatever.

What do you think? Are you watching this series? Thinking about adding it to your watch list? Let us know in the comments below (but, seriously, go easy on the Carol bashing. She’s a hojillion times better than Lori or Andrea!)

Wednesday Recipes: Pizza Edition

October is Pizza month which means it’s a great time to experiment with this classic Italian-cum-American dish. Everyone has their favorite kind of pizza toppings from the pedestrian — pepperoni or cheese — to the personal — anchovies — to the positively baffling — eggs or pineapple. That makes this a great month to try to vary up your own choice of toppings, sauces, spices, dough mixes, and more and we have a couple of great recipes to help you get started!

Do remember, though, that eating pizza every day is a bad idea for your waistline. Cook and consume by all means but do so responsibly!

Exotic Mushroom Pizza

1 (12-inch) pre-baked pizza crust
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots or mild onion, thinly sliced or minced
1 pound assorted exotic mushrooms, sliced or chopped (if using shiitakes, remove inedible stems)
1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)
1 -ounce gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
8 ounces fontina cheese, grated or thinly sliced (this is easier to do if cheese is cold)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pizza stone or pizza pan

Put pizza stone in oven and heat to 425 degrees. While stone is heating, brush olive oil evenly over shell and bake 5 to 7 minutes or until oil bubbles. (If using thin crust pizza, you can eliminate pre-baking of the pizza crust.)

While shell bakes begin cooking the mushrooms. Heat saute or fry pan on high heat, add the oil, garlic and shallots and quickly saute for approximately 30 seconds. Do not allow the garlic/shallot mixture to burn.

Add mushrooms to hot pan, saute quickly until most of the mushroom juices have evaporated (3 to 5 minutes), then add wine. Continue to saute until wine completely evaporates and mushrooms have turned a darker shade or brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove mushroom mixture from heat.

Remove shell from oven (leave stone in oven to keep it hot) and allow to cool slightly. Spread the gorgonzola cheese evenly over the warm crust so that it melts slightly. You can dip your fingers in olive oil to spread the gorgonzola. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the crust. Add the Fontina cheese, distributing it as evenly as possible. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place on hot stone in oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Cool and cut into small rectangles for hors d’oeuvres or into pie-shaped pieces for first course or main course portions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This recipe can be adjusted to suit personal taste such as adding dried, red hot pepper or use different cheeses; however you should not eliminate the gorgonzola. It can be served with champagne as an hors d’oeuvre and with dry red wine as an appetizer or main course with a tossed salad.

Recipe via: Food Network

Nasturtium Pizza

Nasturtium Flower Dough
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dried yeast (about 1 1/4 teaspoons)
2 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour
1 cup semolina flour,* plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup nasturtium flowers
*If you can’t find semolina, substitute high-gluten bread flour.

About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup herb flower pesto
About 1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese
1/3 cup nasturtium flowers
Other toppings of your choice

Put warm water, sugar, and oil in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes, until mixture foams. In a medium bowl, stir to combine flours, salt, and nasturtium flowers. Sprinkle flour mixture into yeast mixture. Mix on low speed for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and bouncy. Cover the bowl with a cotton kitchen towel and let stand for about 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in volume.

Turn dough onto a surface dusted with flour and knead by pushing it away from your body with the heel of your hand, folding it over, and repeating about 12 times. Divide dough into two balls. At this point, dough can be baked or stored for up to 2 days in the refrigerator on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Rub two baking sheets with olive oil and dust with semolina flour. Stretch out each dough ball by tapping and pressing outward from the center with your fingertips. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. Cover with toppings of your choice. Bake pizzas for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking so the dough browns evenly. Slice, serve, and enjoy.

Tech Talk Tuesday: 3D Printing

Tech Talk Tuesday: 3D Printing

Just recently, we expanded our line-up at BuyDig.com to include 3D printers. 3D printing is a growing phenomenon with companies like Shapeways and others working to design items for home printing, offering their own services, and helping makers to sell their creations. As 3D printing grows more popular and prevalent and the cost of owning a printer and the materials decreases, it will probably wind up being almost as revolutionary as the original printing press was. It will also face its own challenges as industries fight to keep it from being more widely adopted.

At the moment, 3D printing is still in its hobbyist/early adopter stages but it is beginning to break out of this niche. Smaller 3D printers, such as the ones we have on offer, are reaching the “affordable” range in pricing for the average family. They are easily worth the investment these days as they can be used to create a wide range of things quickly — from plastic toy soldiers for the kids, nails and screws for Dad, barrettes and hair clips for Mom and the girls, and much, much more — and are interesting enough to spark that “wouldn’t it be neat if…” instinct in every kid and born tinkerer. The programs to design new creations are getting easier to use and, in time, the desire to have complete control and mastery over the details will lead to a greater understanding and use of more advanced 3D rendering systems.

Many major manufacturers such as Boeing are already making use of 3D printing in creating avionic and jet parts that they can test and break without requiring a manufactory to re-tool or requiring skilled artificers to hand-build it. Those 3D printers and materials, of course, are well outside the range of what we can offer at this time. But, with the ones you can purchase from us, the skills you’ll learn in using it will come in handy if you were ever to want to try for a job in the new digital manufacturing and design industry.

What do you think? Do you think it would be worthwhile to have a 3D printer at home? What would you use it for? Let us know in the comments below!